When Mike asked me to take responsibility for “Food” I don’t think he realised I’d be in my element!!

A van full of food

Our food budget was set at £800 and then eventually increased to £1000 for 17 people, from the evening meal on Saturday until breakfast the following Saturday and including sandwiches for the journey home if desired, a total of 21 meals plus cake, biscuits and other snacks, equivalent to 7 days worth of meals.  £15 per head (2010 price) from the budget was set aside for a meal out on the island but that rose to £20 per head (34% of the budget).  This compared favourably with 43.5% of the divers’ costs (not counting non-divers) on a model which Mike had supplied (Tyneside 114 SAC – SW Mull Expedition 2009 Page 18).

This left £660 for FEEDING THE 17.

Kitchen Duties

First of all, I had to find out what the cooking facilities in the two houses were so I contacted Lizzie Williams on the island.  Then… what the dietary requirements of the group were?  One vegetarian, plus, “I don’t eat fish or chicken.”   “I don’t eat spicy food.”   “I don’t eat cooked vegetables.”   “I don’t eat pork.”   “I don’t eat prawns.”  All of these were taken into consideration and catered for in the planned menus and alternatives, then a late addition, “I don’t eat cheese.” The one thing for which I was thankful – nobody had any food allergies.  Now came the choice of tea or coffee, white bread or brown for sandwiches, how many slices each person would want per day, toast for breakfast or not (for estimating amount of toasting bread).  My one big mistake was with the questions asking about cereals and juices.  I should have asked which one cereal and juice people would have preferred instead of asking for a selection.  That way we wouldn’t have ended up with full boxes of some cereals left and running out of muesli.I ‘ventured’ into Tesco’s and explained to an Assistant Manager that I would be spending over £600 on food, explained the aims of the expedition and was eventually awarded a £50 gift voucher from their charities fund.  Looking at special offers in-store I snapped up enough crisps for one packet each per day for packed lunches plus 2 dozen individual bottles of spring water so that everyone would have their own bottle to re-fill everyday to take on the boat.

The next few weeks were spent scouring the shelves for suitably sized packages of foodstuffs and the types of special offers available.  This was followed by hours on the Tesco website looking for any other special offers and the dates they were available, then actually keying in the orders, over 250 items on the first order and over 120 on the second, followed by double checking I hadn’t forgotten anything.  Unfortunately I ordered skimmed milk instead of semi-skimmed, hence the need to buy extra in Inverness but that then meant we could get fresh instead of UHT. Everything was falling into place.  A few visits to the store a couple of days before we left, one very large delivery on the Thursday (over 250 items which then had to be packed into crates/boxes for collection with the dive gear on Friday) followed by another large delivery of mainly fresh foods on the Friday (over 120 items which had to be packed into crates ready for departure that evening), a visit to the store in Inverness for fresh milk and fish and we were just about done!

The first thing on arrival at the accommodation was to see what the facilities were and then to separate the food for the two houses accordingly.

A meal down at the local

The next few weeks were spent scouring the shelves for suitably sized packages of foodstuffs and the types of special offers available.  This was followed by hours on the Tesco website looking for any other special offers and the dates they were available, then actually keying in the orders, over 250 items on the first order and over 120 on the second, followed by double checking I hadn’t forgotten anything.  Unfortunately I ordered skimmed milk instead of semi-skimmed, hence the need to buy extra in Inverness but that then meant we could get fresh instead of UHT. Everything was falling into place.  A few visits to the store a couple of days before we left, one very large delivery on the Thursday (over 250 items which then had to be packed into crates/boxes for collection with the dive gear on Friday) followed by another large delivery of mainly fresh foods on the Friday (over 120 items which had to be packed into crates ready for departure that evening), a visit to the store in Inverness for fresh milk and fish and we were just about done!

The first thing on arrival at the accommodation was to see what the facilities were and then to separate the food for the two houses accordingly.

Just as everyone worked as a team in all things diving related so they did their best to help with the preparation of the meals.  Later than planned return from diving made for a late meal some evenings, but once we got used to that things seemed to go OK.  The first night’s meal, a casserole, had been pre-prepared and frozen so by the time we arrived it had practically thawed out and just needed heating through whilst the jacket potatoes were cooking.  Recipes for the Spaghetti Bolognaise and Fish Pie were supplied.

The meal out was a welcome relaxation from the rush to prepare a meal.  It was also an opportunity to sample real Scottish haggis.  Alan’s vegetarian curry went down well, even with those who asked what kind of meat would be in it and the ‘barbecue’ on the last night was a way of using up the potatoes and some of the salad ingredients as accompaniments.  Some of us learned how to cook freshly caught scallops whilst the art of draining carrots before mashing them was a skill acquired by A. N. Other!  Fresh ingredients, which wouldn’t fit in the fridge, were stored in cool boxes and freshly

Diving

A list of potential dives and their locations within the Summer Isles are included   This document does not go into details of each of the dives as most are listed quite fully in the books about this area.  These are Ridley, G Dive North West Scotland, London, Underwater World Publications, 1990 ISBN 0946020043 and Wood L, Dive West Scotland, London: Underwater World Publications, 2004 ISBN 0946020341. On-site exploration of the area will enable us to plan new dives.

Planned Dive Sites

From our base on Tanera Mor, we will explore a number of the wrecks and reefs in the surrounding waters. Some planned sites include:

  • Fairweather V
  • Conservation Cave
  • Innisjura
  • Silver Reward
  • Amanda Wrecks! (Horse Island)
  • Priest Island Caves
  • Seasearch Surveys (Various Sites)

The choice of the Summer Isles as an expedition destination far exceeded our expectation in terms of the quality of the diving and the exceptionally favourable weather conditions for the area which we enjoyed for the vast majority of the week. From our list of possible dive sites

  • The Fairweather V wreck
  • The Jambo wreck
  • The Boston Stirling wreck
  • Tanera Mor Pier
  • Tanera Mor Bay/Anchorage
  • Conservation Cave
  • Sgeir Neo-Ghluasadach wall dive

15 Seasearch surveys at various locations.

Dive Management

All diving went to plan except on one occasion when the wreck of the Innisjura could not be located.  We then went to our scheduled Plan B and dived the scenic wall dive at Sgeir Neo-Ghluasadach.

Martin giving the dive briefing

Although the dives themselves went to plan we identified two particular problems. Firstly, we had problems fitting in scheduled dive management for the next days diving. We had not appreciated the amount of time needed for the jobs that had to be done ie filling cylinders; sorting out equipment and preparing meals and dining.  Initially this pushed the next days dive management planning late into the evening and we were going to bed not knowing what the plan for the next days diving was, the knock effect of this was delayed departures the next morning.  This was recognised and rectified by allowing the dive manager and assistant to get on with their job by excusing them from the duties of the normal routine.  Secondly, ensuring everyone had a dive, proved difficult because of the remoteness of some of the sites and the time taken to ferry divers to and from sites. Whilst we had grasped the problems intellectually before the trip and planned with daily rotas and timetables we only appreciated the interplay of tasks and their influence on each other in practice, on the island. It was a steep learning curve for the core group. We were admirably aided by our mentor Jim, who was a constant source of support with his incisive ideas.

Backup Plans

The expedition planned to take advantage of neap tides and the low tidal flows.   Consequently, we were hopeful of completing a full diving program.  We constantly appraised the weather and other salient conditions to ensure safe diving. The choice of dive sites ultimately depended on weather conditions.  Thus, the final choice of site was made the night preceding the dive, after the weather forecast.  The choice was monitored right up to dive time to ensure safety.  The Summer Isles has its own micro climate.  Strong winds from the west or south-west tend to create eddies and tidal flows contrary to expectations.  However, the geography of the Summer Isles is such that a sheltered dive site could always be found.

Other Information

Many of our expedition members had become involved with the Seasearch project and this is something we also pursued during our stay.  The Summer Isles had last been surveyed over 30 years ago. We intended to record the varied and significant marine life found in the local waters, paying special attention for any outcrops of rare species of special interest such as Pink Sea Fans or Sea Grass. These are known to occur sporadically and the accurate charting of these habitats would be of significance for conservation.

All personal diving equipment was required to have been serviced recently and be fit for purpose.

The main kit that was required is outlined below:

  • General Personal Diving Equipment: Drysuit, Undersuit, BCD, Regs, etc
  • Cylinders: At least 2 cylinders, depending on configuration, enough for 2 dives a day.
  • Alternative air source: Pony, side mounts or twins required.
  • Delayed surface marker buoy x 2
  • Torch and backup torch
  • Knife/Line cutter/Scissors
  • Foul weather clothing and Sun cream for skin protection.
  • Both Bury SAC and Sub C Divers SAC have club kit that could be used if required by any of the expedition members.
Other Expedition Equipment

This was supplied by the expedition as a whole:

  • Two RIBS: One from Bury BSAC and one from Sub C Divers BSAC
  • One compressor – arrangements have been made to repair or replace the compressor if it should be faulty. The hire company has warranted replacing the compressor within 24 hours.
  • 2 x 3L Emergency Oxygen kits in addition to 1 x 10L O2 cylinder fixed to a RIB, also access to one members rebreather unit
  • Decompression Trapeze
  • First Aid Kits
  • Charts
  • Tide Tables
  • Tidal stream atlas
  • Safety & Medical Proforma
  • Checklists were sent to each member, based upon the BSAC guidelines as an aide memoire for expedition members